Is lack of modesty the problem?

The drama that is taking place in Wisconsin again highlights the conflict that is seems to be causing problems for our governing process on local and federal levels.   People complain about the inability of their elected officials to work in a bipartisan manner, yet it seems that it is the short-sighted  individuals that are too often elected.   While I believe that the interests of big money interests are mainly to blame for getting people like the Wisconsin governor elected,  David Brooks’s article puts forward the issue that a lack of modesty is the source of the problem.   Some people have a such a high opinion of themselves that they fail to take into considerations the needs or feelings of other, rather like General Bullmoose.  If he is right,  how can we as a culture emphasize the importance of the community before it is too late?  If George Washington had this arrogant temperament, the United States might well have had a monarchy.  My Tree of Failure post in January provides more on this topic.

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2 Responses to Is lack of modesty the problem?

  1. Sandy,

    I, too, appreciated Brooks’ modesty piece.

    It seems to me we have confused healthy egos with aggrandizing egos. Leaders with healthy egos are confident and action-oriented, but not narrowly self-focused or lacking self-insight. These types don’t always “look” the part and, in fact, many of the best lead by engaging others’ abilities and skills more visibly than their own. They adapt a “pay it forward” or common cause mindset that is not transactional or “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” but more on an “open source” share what you know/have and it will come back to you theme. Not to say they are not judicious with focus, but where they do invest time and energies, they tend to err on the side of generous.

    I say this with numerous “quiet” and humble people in mind who, especially when they see potential and energy they can support with more of the same, don’t hesitate to offer it. Interestingly, I note “returning the favor” unbidden seems to in turn energize them/their hopes and efforts. I’m paying more attention to these “doers” than the immodest “tellers.” The challenge is that since doers are so busy engaging the work and others, they can be missed in the media and cultural eg0-shuffle.

    It’s important though, that their stories be told whenever and wherever possible, so the rest of us can learn from and follow their lead.


    • Sandy says:

      Hi Andrea,

      I agree with you, particularly your point on who gets the publicity. In my experience, the officials who really do the work do not generally get as much attention as those who spend more time garnering publicity for themselves and minimal time accomplishing the tasks at hand. As a result, the people with the “slick tongues” and “loud mouths” really have to prove their credibility before I trust them.


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